Government showing ‘colour blind approach’ to coronavirus after review of BAME deaths

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock - Credit: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

A campaigner has called for a public inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people after it was revealed those were more likely to die from the virus.

It comes after a review by Public Health England (PHE) found people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death as people of white British ethnicity, while people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicity had between a 10% and 50% higher risk of death.

Patrick Vernon, a former Hackney Labour councillor, told the PA News Agency that the PHE review highlighted the contribution made by BAME people in UK society as he pointed to the large number of deaths among frontline workers who were from those communities

Mr Vernon accused the government of failing to undertake a 'proper impact assessment' into how Covid-19 affected BAME groups, saying this was also the case when looking at the impact on care homes.

'The report highlights that BAME lives matter, and the government should no longer take the colour blind approach any more,' he said.

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'At the beginning of the pandemic they said coronavirus does not discriminate, but the impact of it does discriminate - they didn't look at the risks that it posed on BAME people.'

To help bereaved families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19, Mr Vernon launched a fundraising page on GoFundMe to provide grants for memorial events, which has so far raised more than £20,000.

Some claim the report did not go far enough in explaining why BAME people are disproportionately affected.

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Publishing the review, health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons that 'black lives matter', a slogan which has dominated headlines in recent weeks as protests continue in the US and around the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Hancock said: 'Black lives matter, as do those of the poorest areas of our country which have worse health outcomes, and we need to make sure all of these considerations are taken into account, and action is taken to level up the health outcomes of people across this country.'

Liberal Democrat health, wellbeing and social care spokesperson Munira Wilson said: 'The findings from the report showing that BAME people are being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis are incredibly worrying and confirm what was tragically already obvious. Many of the consequences of the pandemic are exacerbated by the existing inequalities in our society, yet this report does little to address those issues.

'People from BAME communities, due to socio-economic inequalities and health inequalities, face an increased risk of contracting the virus. However, this report has failed to analyse those important issues and fails to provide proper recommendations. We need urgent action from the Government to stem the tide of the disproportionate number of BAME people losing their lives to coronavirus.

'The government must come forward and explain what it will do to try and tackle the factors contributing to this inequality. We know that people from BAME groups make up a significant percentage of those working on the frontline and in other key worker roles, yet this government has utterly failed to properly protect them from the virus. Ensuring they have proper protective equipment and access to testing would be a good place to start.'

Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour's shadow women and equalities secretary, said: 'This review confirms what we already knew - that racial and health inequalities amplify the risks of Covid-19. Those in the poorest households and people of colour are disproportionately impacted.

'But when it comes to the question of how we reduce these disparities, it is notably silent. It presents no recommendations. Having the information is a start – but now is the time for action.

'The government must not wait any longer to mitigate the risks faced by these communities and must act immediately to protect BAME people so that no more lives are lost.'

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